It’s Grand Final week in the 2016 NPL Queensland season with Far North Queensland Heat and Redlands United set to battle it out for the title.
For both Redlands and FNQ, this is a first trip to the season decider and shapes as the fourth different winner of the NPL in Queensland in as many years. Previous winners include Olympic FC -2013-, Palm Beach -2014- and last seasons winners Moreton Bay United.
In the first Semi-Final a rule where finals venues being decided at the discretion of Football Queensland worked in the favour of third placed FNQ, who played host to second placed Gold Coast City after the higher rank sides ground was deemed unsuitable to host the Semi-Final.
The home ground advantage made the difference for the Heat, who qualified for the decider thanks to the only goal of the game from Christopher O’Hare in the 32nd minute.
In the second Semi-Final, Premiers Brisbane Strikers played host to Redlands United with both sides looking to pick themselves up after disappointment on the National Stage in the FFA Cup midweek.
The game was an evening and entertaining encounter with Trent Clulow giving the home side the lead inside the opening 20 minutes. Redlands fought back in the second half with their season on the line, and talisman Graham Fyfe levelled the scores to send the game to extra time.
With no goals in the extra period the game went to penalties and it was the visiting side who secured a birth in the Grand Final on the back of two saves from goalkeeper Brendan White.
In the two meetings in 2016 it’s incredibly even between the two sides, with both sides winning their home games against one another 2-0.
Redlands season started off extremely strongly with the Devils winning seven of their opening ten games which saw them sit in the top two at the halfway point, and it’s the form which propelled the club onto the national stage in the form of the FFA Cup.
Since then however Redlands form has been inconsistent with a mixed bag of results through the middle third of the season, before things picked up towards the end with the team going unbeaten in the last month of the season to narrowly secure a finals berth.
FNQ meanwhile have been a model of consistency with their defensively solid style bearing fruit in 2016. The Heat were unbeaten until their round 8 loss at the Cleveland Showgrounds against Redlands. The returned the favour on Redlands in round 19, but late season losses to Brisbane Strikers and SWQ Thunder saw the Heat relinquish their top two spot.
Perhaps tellingly for the boys from the north, their form down here in the South East has been strong in 2016, with five wins, four losses and a draw from 10 trips, although perhaps tellingly one of those losses was against Redlands, with another of the four occurring at Perry Park.
Looking at the two sides in depth and the key man for the Heat is Jamie Carroll, whose 15 goals this season have played a big part in propelling FNQ to the decider. With just 27 goals conceded –the second fewest in the completion has also been a staple of the Cairns side success this season.
For Redlands, their talisman Graham Fyfe will be key as usual with his creativity and knack for a goal a vital part of the side. The likes of Stephen Green, Paul O’Brien and Michael Lee will also be important to the Bayside teams’ chances, as will Iago Sao Jose who brings a spark off the bench.
Kick-off in the 2016 NPL Queensland Grand Final is set for tomorrow evening at Perry Park. It shapes up as a fitting conclusion to the 2016 campaign with two of the best teams over the season fighting it out for the title.